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IMPROVING NEW MEXICO’S WATER MANAGEMENT - page 38 / 47

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example, drip irrigation conserves water relative to traditional flood or furrow techniques

(actually drip irrigation reduces the amount of diversion and farm delivery, but the technology

does not reduce the consumptive water use of the crop). Drip irrigation is very capital intensive

and expensive. It makes sense for only a very few high valued crops. For most farmers, drip

irrigation would be an investment disaster possibly causing financial ruin. This is not good

conservation. Another dubious program is the conversion of evaporative to central air cooling.

New Mexico’s low humidity and dry climate makes evaporative cooling (also known as swamp

coolers) a very low cost source of air conditioning. Evaporative cooling does require some water,

but sometimes perspective is lost. Central air conditioning requires considerable amounts of

expensive electricity (electrical utilities are generally for this program). Central air conditioning

costs can be several hundred dollars a month compared to the evaporative cooling bill that is

generally much less than a hundred. The conversion to central air is a conservation program that

asks the consumer to incur hundreds of dollars of electrical bills (say $500 per summer) to save a

few thousands gallons of water. Consider a summer savings of 3,000 gallons - in Albuquerque,

this is about $6 of water. The conversion to central air costs $500 to save $6 – this does not make

economic sense.

There are low cost and effective water conservation programs, voluntary landscape

programs, better residential irrigation of lawns and landscapes, reduced water using appliances.

With incentive packages, these conservation programs can make economic sense. Residential

water programs can reduce residential water use by 10 to 15% (ibid, Michelson et al.). There are

improved irrigation incentive programs – such as low cost loans (adopted in the Central value of

California) – that can induce farmers to implement more conserving irrigation. Here however,

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